My Sunday school religion teacher, a Vietnamese priest, one day announced in class, "God's calling is mysterious. A few of you might be called to the priesthood or consecrated life." And then, he specifically mentioned my name, "Kim Kieu might be a sister. Who knows." My classmates laughed and became very vocal, "What? Kim Kieu, a nun?" "That's not possible!!!" With full conviction, a few guy friends said in Vietnamese, "Bảy ba 21. Không biết có ở được tới 21 ngày!" (translated literally as "seven times three is 21. I don't think she will make it to 21 days!"). My classmates actually expressed my sentiment; I had never thought of becoming a nun. The idea was not only foreign to me, but also uncomfortable and unattractive due to some bad encounters with "some nuns" when I was in primary school in Vietnam.
God truly had a way of "nagging" at my mind and "pulling" at my heart. The idea of becoming a religious sister kept unwantedly popping into my head until it gradually became a familiar thought. From thought to action, from contemplation to implementation, and through it all, I strongly believe that God had a way of removing obstacles and planning out the path for me. He even picked out - literally, a religious community for me! I thought to join a religious community named after Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and it would make perfect sense for me to join the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in New Orleans. Unfortunately, they were too close to home "for comfort"; I would get very distracted and worried about my parents and siblings.
How did I end up in The Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the World? I "accidentally" picked up the Heart of Mary Magazine (Nguyệt San Trái Tim Đức Mẹ) in the magazine rack of my parents' bathroom. This doesn't sound respectful, but it was the truth. I did not have the habit of reading "holy magazines," but somehow, I just picked it up and mainly looked at pictures. Toward the last few pages of the magazine, I came across an image of a few young ladies with these words written above the image: Dòng Đức Mẹ Trinh Vương. I thought to myself, "Wow, that sounds like a really nice name." The name really appealed to me and has grown on me even to this day.
Since I was a "little mommy" to my younger sisters, I found it heart-wrenching to leave them, so on the second day of my entrance into the convent, I was inspired to offer my parents and siblings to the great Mother of God. I believed that Mary would take my place in assisting my parents and in caring for my siblings, and of course, Mary would do a far better job than I. I also entrusted my vocation to Mary, to her motherly guidance. I am fully convinced that Mary has tenderly guided me in the last 36 years of religious life, especially at times, when I am too ministry focused, too distracted and too busy to pray. Mary has drawn me closer to her Son, to imitate his life, and to especially be docile to the Father's will. In other words, Mary has taught me to be totally available for whatever God asks of me and to be faithful to that complete availability. She has taught me to "do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5).
Allow me to share a few examples concerning ministry. In my 20's, I had a desire to be a missionary in a far off country, but the attraction to Pope John Paul's love for Mary and his logo "Totus Tuus" ("All Yours") helped me discover the teaching on Pope John Paul II’s New Evangelization. This has totally changed me! I am convinced that God wants me to live each day trying to be a prophetic witness to a society that faces a crisis of faith - a society that wants to abolish the existence of God. For me, this is a real challenge!!!
I also had a desire to be a doctor or to work in a medical field; however, God seemed to have something else on his mind. I was asked to go into teaching - my least favorite field, but it prepared me for parish work and later for formation. Doing formation, I have the privilege of inviting young women to imitate Christ, the Supreme Consecrated One, and to offer themselves to Mary completely -"Totus tuus." More importantly, formation has given me opportunities to deepen my understanding of consecrated life and to grow in the following of Christ. A friend once shared with me, "A novice director goes through formation at an intense stage."
God's calling is truly mysterious. I never thought that I would one day be a nun, but God's way is not my way (cf. Is 55:8). Reflecting on my vocation story, I can say when God calls someone to follow him in religious life, He seems to "chase" after that person until he/she says "yes." God pours grace upon grace to see that "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:7).
Through Mary and with Mary, I humbly give thanks to God for this special vocation, and I am very grateful to those, especially my CMR sisters and my family, that have accompanied and helped me on this journey of consecrated life.